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The Maker Movement

Updated on September 26, 2012
Maker Faire Poster 2007
Maker Faire Poster 2007

Our American ideal: "of the people, by the people and for the people" may be coming true for the whole world through an unlikely source--the Maker Movement, an eclectic coming together of tinkers, inventors and "makers," who meet through the internet, in garages, and increasingly, through workshop labs or "hackerspaces" and huge maker fairs.

The hacker space movement is emerging. It’s really strong in Germany, but it’s starting to take a turn in the United States. There are places popping up all over the place. It’s really fantastic. [Hacker spaces] create minor communities and together, we are a movement. ~ Bre Pettis, the founder of the Brooklyn-based NYC Resistor and host of “History Hacker” on The History Channel

Downtown Brooklyn is the home of a hacker collective called NYC Resistor, a laboratory converted into an urban hang out, chock full of gadgets, widgets, circuit boards and spare parts. A robot rollerskate roams around the floor and a Bar Bot after Rosie, from the Jetsons makes your drink. Rather than going to the gym, these self styled nerds, inventors and tinkerer-makers pay $75 a month membership to be able to hang out and use the tools and supplies with their buddies in increasingly inspired ways.

One of the seven female members, a former Project Runway participant, Diana Eng, designed a sweatshirt with a digital camera in the hood that turns on when your heart rate accelerates to capture the excitement.

People think hacker means a criminal. Well, we want our word back.~ Devon Jones, collective member

Some people go to the gym, some people go to nightclubs. We tried to build a creative community for nerds.~ software designer

The combination of all sorts of interests in a collective of innovative individuals often results in the most groundbreaking of achievements. The artist and engineer collaborate and each learns from the other.

Sir Timothy Berner's Lee at the 2012 Olympics. He's tweeting: "This is for everyone."
Sir Timothy Berner's Lee at the 2012 Olympics. He's tweeting: "This is for everyone."

One of the best Christmas presents the world has received since the first one 2000 years ago was the World Wide Web. Sir Timothy John "Tim" Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist developed the initial program and together with MIT Belgian computer scientist Robert Cailliau proposed in 1990 to use hypertext "to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will", and then they publicly introduced the project in December of the same year.

Isn't it interesting how a wonderful and completely free gift can motivate others to give just as freely and change the entire world? ~ Winsome

UK's The Guardian has a clever way of covering current news by a series of questions and answers. This one was about the mystery of the "bloke with the computer" at the 2012 Olympics opening ceremonies:

Who is he? One of the stars of the Olympic opening ceremony.

Which one? When the house thingy was lifted off the stage at the end of the music dance mix, he was the bloke sitting next to a computer.

I was watching it on NBC in the US and neither of their two commentators, Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer, had a clue who Sir Tim was. Incredible. I hadn't realised there were any commentators even stupider than our own Trevor Nelson.

Apparently so. But can you just put me out of my misery and tell me who Sir Tim Berners-Lee is? He's only the inventor of the world wide web.

So he must be a billionaire like Bill Gates by now? He's very comfortably off with about $50m in the bank. But he never set out to turn his idea into a moneymaking scheme for himself.

You mean, he created the means by which Google and Amazon could print money and he didn't try to cash in? Precisely.

What a loser. No wonder no one in the US has heard of him. WE RATHER ADMIRE THAT and were a great deal more pleased to see him at the opening ceremony than Paul McCartney. ~ The Guardian

Making it free to the public was just as historically important as the discovery itself. By not charging for the software, like Microsoft does for Windows, they inspired hackers and makers around the world to create and develop software and products and then release the rights to duplicate them to you and me free of charge.

Whole Earth Catalog offered tools and changed the way a generation thought about themselves
Whole Earth Catalog offered tools and changed the way a generation thought about themselves

Our educational system, in its entirety, does nothing to give us any kind of material competence. In other words, we don't learn how to cook, how to make clothes, how to build houses, how to make love, or to do any of the absolutely fundamental things of life. The whole education that we get for our children in school is entirely in terms of abstractions. It trains you to be an insurance salesman or a bureaucrat, or some kind of cerebral character. ~ Alan Watts

In late 1968, a young visionary named Stewart Brand, together with his family and friends and using primitive type-setting tools published the first edition of The Whole Earth Catalog. This revolutionary catalog and its successors laid the groundwork for what is now called the Maker Movement. the catalog offered reviews of key "maker" tools as well as informational tools to allow people to begin doing things for themselves. Now championing genetic engineering crops to help feed the world--a position he once fought, Brand calls himself a man with opinions that are ‘strongly stated and loosely held’ – strongly stated so people can get hold of them to think about, and loosely held so facts and persuasive argument can change them.

The internet has taken young Stewart's idea to its ultimate level. For example, wikiHow is a cooporative, editable effort to build and share the world's largest, highest quality how-to manual. People from all over the world have collaborated on almost 150,000 how-to articles that over 35 million people a month read. Their Creative Commons license allows wikiHow’s articles to be used freely by any organization or person for any non-commercial purpose and they are working on multi-lingual versions as well.

It is fun to go to their community dashboard and watch the weather change from rainy skies to sunshine as volunteers check in to meet formatting, spell-checking, image adding, video adding, expanding and editing goals.

Ground-roots, hands-on, coming-together of large groups of people who want to experience do-it-yourself expression in community, is becoming a major source of change in the world.

One event which is purely exhibitional and temporary is the eclectic, exciting "Burning Man" event that started on a small beach in San Francisco and has grown to over 50,000 attendees in the searing heat of Black Rock Desert in Nevada.

Burning Man Truckapillar
Burning Man Truckapillar

Burning Man is a combination of desert survival and personal artful expression that is dismantled and disappears after the event. Once a year, tens of thousands of participants gather in Nevada's Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever.

Burning Man is also an ever-expanding year-round culture based on their "Ten Principles" that include universal participation, acts of unconditional gift giving, no commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising, radical self-reliance, community values of creative cooperation and collaboration, civil responsibility, respect for the environment and leaving the area in a better state. Emphasis is on deeply personal participation. Slogans like "Achieve being through doing." "Everyone works, everyone plays." "Make the world real through actions that open the heart" show the spirit of a truly new form of art, making and expression.

Unlike Burning Man, Maker's Faire is a collection of DIY and DIWO (do it with others) inventors and hackers of every variety of technology, craft and useful or simply fun gadgets or products. Below is an example of a maker's faire exhibit--an EEG or mind controlled robot.

Makers Kimmo & Tero Karvinen, authors of Make: Arduino Bots and Gadgets, brought to Maker Faire: Bay Area last year an Arduino robot you control with your mind!
Makers Kimmo & Tero Karvinen, authors of Make: Arduino Bots and Gadgets, brought to Maker Faire: Bay Area last year an Arduino robot you control with your mind! | Source

Makers are as varied as the things they make: kites with cameras, homebrew biodiesel, treehouses with ziplines, cigar box guitars, remote-control lawnmowers, automatic cat-feeders, high-altitude water rockets, robotic blimps, worm composting systems, stylish plywood furniture, pinhole cameras, experimental surfboards, solar water heaters, portable drive-in movie projectors -- there's no limit to their aspirations. And while no two DIYers are alike, in general they're an upbeat and friendly group that shares a special trait: the courage to screw up. ~ Mark Frauenfelder

In my article The Toddler CEO I talk about our need to use what I call the Toddler Principle: The sooner you start failing, the sooner you can succeed. Makers have learned and apply this principle to everything they make. Like Edison, they aren't failing, they are only finding a lot of things that don't work until they find the one that does.

Hacker spaces are growing up all over America where makers meet to saw, bend, glue and solder things most corporations take years to develop. Hive 76 in Philadelphia, Pumping Station One in Chicago, All Hands Active in Ann Arbor Michigan, and Noisebridge in San Francisco are just a few of the places stirring up an inventive "chaos." . Ford Motor Corp. decided to take advantage of this maverick innovation by bank-rolling one of the TechShops with state of the art machines. Those who pay membership fees can use it to their hearts content. They offer their employees a 3 month free membership if the idea they are working on seems patentable.

AS220, in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, takes makerspaces to a new level. It has become a national model for urban revitalization with the completion of their 3rd, award-winning project for a total of 100,000 square feet of lively, mixed-use space. Each of the buildings has a vibrant blend of local, one-of-a-kind retail, non-profit office, and unjuried and uncensored arts-related program spaces including galleries, performance venues, and public-access art studios. Each year, AS220 serves over 1,000 artists and is destination for upwards of 93,000 people.

It's a combination of community, as well as opportunities for people to express themselves through making things and learning more and more about what they're enthusiastic about and really love. ~ Mitch Altman, co-founder of the San Francisco hacker space Noisebridge.

In the past, hackers, nerds and geeks have pretty much been at home with their computer screens. And now we get to be together with our computer screens. We share resources and space, so it’s kind of like having a clubhouse, except there are tons of tools. ~ Bre Pettis

Jim Newton saw the need for community labs with high-end machine tools and his TechShops are making money from membership fees and are spawning new companies like Karatstix, bamboo knitting supplies maker, and a soil-testing device is made by Solum.

A cell phone and computer repairman in Nigeria has built a functioning helicopter, using spare parts and a 133-hp engine salvaged from a Honda Civic while a maker in China made his own submarine, which reaches a depth of 20 meters, and can travel for up to 10 hours.

Residents of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, with help from the National Science Foundation and a pile of household trash, built an open-source wireless network, called the "FabFi" system, that can transmit up to several miles and covers most of Jalalabad..

The only commercial expense is a wireless router mounted on homemade RF reflectors made out of boards, window screens, plastic tubs, or other discarded materials which are covered with a metallic mesh surface.. Some of the reflectors in the Jalalabad system were built for less than $3.The number of reflectors which can be integrated into the network is theoretically endless.

Ross McCurdy, a teacher and his students in Rhode Island rebuilt a 1923 Model-T Ford to run on a hydrogen fuel cell emitting only clean drinking water.

DIWO (doing it with others) is the biggest change in innovation and experimentation. I mean, think about it--what is fun doing by yourself (DIY) is a lot more fun doing it with others. Sharing knowledge, tools, supplies and the energy of a creative environment in making or building things has inspired me to start Pasadena's first "Maker Kitchen" where the community can meet and work on bicycles, restore or build furniture and create useful things out of found or recycled objects.

The first Maker Faire was held in 2006, at the San Mateo County Event Center. It included six exposition and workshop pavilions, a 5-acre outdoor midway, over 100 exhibiting makers, hands-on workshops, demonstrations and DIY competitions.

Today the Faires pull in almost 100,000 visitors and the Mini-Faires in all parts of the country challenge traditional county fairs for attendance.

These are the biggest bike wheels ever. There's little risk of falling off, unlike some of the other bikes but the seats do rock back and forth like a porch swing. The person on the left pedals the left and the one on the right pedals the right.
These are the biggest bike wheels ever. There's little risk of falling off, unlike some of the other bikes but the seats do rock back and forth like a porch swing. The person on the left pedals the left and the one on the right pedals the right.

Like the first industrial revolution, in this second industrial revolution, products are being created and made at home and in shared spaces and like the tinkerers who made the first Apple computer in their garage, the new makers deserve our notice and respect--oh and like Bre Pettis says: "If you're not sharing your ideas, you're doing it wrong."


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    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      So glad, Phoebe,

      I am very grateful to those who make technology, software and know-how available to all of us and even demonstrate the way to use it. Just thinking about it makes me want to go downstairs and make something. =: )

      Thank you for your kindness and friendship

    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 

      5 years ago

      Another triumph! I missed reading your work and I definitely was not dissappointed.

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi Kim,

      So happy to have you visit. In the sequel to Toddler, I will be mentioning the second Toddler Principle: What Can Go Wrong Can Go Right.

      Just tell those characters every day they have to enjoy life is a very successful day.

      Thank you for the kind words, you too. =: )

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 

      5 years ago

      This is all well and good, but I am still recovering from a recent experience of being like the toddler CEO assigned to craft with a group of characters still stigmatized by failure. I like the quote from that Winsome fella. Keep making and crafting hubs, Mr. W:)

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Greetings MsDora,

      I like that, "must read again," I have movies like that and books like that. I'm happy the ideas here stimulate your thinking. The whole maker culture is all about helping each other create. Thank you for your pleasant visit and kind words. =: )

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      This is a "must read again." Interesting, inspiring and engaging. I might even have an idea. Great information! Great presentation!

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi Genna, thank you, they are inspiring aren't they? We are going to see more and more of these and the best thing is we are the beneficiaries of their creativity. Yeah, how did they make that thing? "Here Hank, you hold this truck while I weld the other one to it, and don't forget to bend it way over while you do." =: )

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      What a cool idea…truly inspirational. This is the cooperative spirit of innovation, sharing, and creativity at its best. I had no idea that these Maker Fairs existed. Thanks for sharing this. I liked the photos as well. The burning man truckapillar is amazing.

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi Doc, good to see you. Yeah and there's that coughing or smoking association with hacker that gives "maker" a preferred title. You have to leave room for the slightly dangerous or rebellious side though, most great innovations in industry, art and governments were caused by who we would consider law-breaking revolutionaries.

      Always enjoy your comments. =: )

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi Hillary, so nice to see you. In my article, How to Play, I talk about how 90% of us lose the creativity index we had as children and I made the assertion that it is the unstructured play that makes the difference in children excelling. We have tools and materials in companies, but it is in these unstructured makerspaces that real creativity takes place. I hadn't thought about the sharing part, but that is true of real play also, children are free (sometimes too free) with their ideas. Adults are just catching on and wow what a difference.

      Thank you for your affirming comment. =: )

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi CTD,

      That sounds about right, I saw a special on her somewhere, but didn't catch the collective. The point is, anywhere you furnish a space with materials, tools and creative individuals working together, magic happens.

      Thanks for the visit and great comment. =: )

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      5 years ago from south Florida

      Fascinating, Winsome. Maker is positive and works fine but it may take a long time to turn Hacker around into a positive term.

    • Green Lotus profile image


      5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Great Hub. Thanks for acknowledging all the great Makers out there. Here's to innovation, sharing and generosity! Rated up.

    • connecthedots profile image


      5 years ago from U.S.A.

      I was intrigued by Sir Berners-Lee watching the opening ceremonies. Don't remember which network, maybe MSNBC, but they did say what he was famous for. Before that I didn't know who invented the internet, 'cept that it wasn't Al Gore! Never mind, I admire Gore for his environmental leadership.

      Are you familiar with the life of Alex the conversant parrot? (I have a hub) From the book I read on his life, Alex and Me, he and his owner/mom/trainer belonged to something like the hacker collective you describe back in the 90's hi tech boom.

      Interesting hub.

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hey Aguasilver, great to see you. I know, I should always make two or three hubs out of these things I really get into. Thank you for the read and the kudos, you are much appreciated. =: )

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 

      5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Fascinating, and I only got a third of the way through, but hey! it's well worth a comment even now, and when I have had time to absorb this info.... I will be back (not like Arnie!)

      Great hub, bookmarked for full consumption, to be enjoyed slowly and acted upon! But daily grind means I need to put it aside.... for now!

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Thank you Billy, I only scratched the surface. To date there are over 400 of these maker or "hackerspaces." I will include pictures of what the Pasadena Makerspace members are creating in another hub.

      Appreciate the visit. =: )

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Fascinating hub and very informative! Great job on this!


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